CSS, La Liberación

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 08.23.11 in Reviews

What gives CSS their mojo is also what makes them so slippery: This iPod-promoted São Paulo ensemble doesn’t fit any one box, and its members clearly don’t give a shit. You could call them dance, rock, female, male, gay, straight, indie, sellouts, dead serious or a total joke, and be both right and wrong. CSS is a quintessential party band, and nothing is certain at a party.

You can call them dance, rock, indie, sellouts, dead serious or a total joke – and be both right and wrong

On their third album, the quintet immediately gets with the most hybrid genre of all — pop — and does it hardcore: Not even Britney at this point would sing a song called “I Love You,” even though this one is essentially an idealized Britney anthem complete with gratuitous AutoTune effects, synth power chords, an ingeniously dippy boy/girl refrain and a big fat cowbell. It’s goofy and sincere right down to its ESL lyrics: “How come out of a million sticks is you that I picked?”

Bypassing the slickness that distinguished 2008′s Donkey without shying away from the kinds of hooks that defined 2006′s Cansei de Ser Sexy, La LiberacÃ�on is frontloaded with potential club hits and lays heavier on the guitars in its punk-y second half. But even that rule gets subverted by the album’s guest stars; that doleful male voice on the Ace of Base-ish “Hits Me Like a Rock” belongs to Primal Scream frontman Bobbie Gillespie, while Mike Garson — the pianist feted for his delightfully garish playing on David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane — reprises his avant-Liberace soloing for the moody “Partners in Crime.” Throughout, singer Lovefoxxx remains atypically yet uncannily charismatic, as if Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon had decided to drop the pretence of that Ciccone Youth project and just be Madonna. As much as one can define it, that’s CSS.